This past June, police and animal control say they removed nearly 200 cats from a Winchester home. On Wednesday, three people who lived in that home faced a judge on charges of animal cruelty and risk of injury to a minor.
James and Laura Thomen, along with Marissa O’Brien, face 106 counts of animal cruelty and two counts of risk of injury to a minor. The Thomens are the grandparents of two children, aged six and 10, found in the Winchester home. Those children have since been placed with other relatives by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The Thomens have applied for the supervised diversionary program and O’Brien has applied for accelerated rehabilitation.
“My client would enter into this program with whatever conditions the court wants to set,” said attorney Robert Salerno, who represents O’Brien. “If [accelerated rehabilitation is granted], the charges would be dropped at the end of it.”
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If not, Salerno explains this case would stay on the docket and criminal charges would be pursued.
Meanwhile, animal advocate group Desmond’s Army was in court. They hope the court implements mental health screening for the plaintiffs, with the aim of preventing this from happening again.
“It’s an illness,” said the organization’s president, Zilla Cannamela. “It’s sad for the animals. They don’t choose to live that way.”
According to court documents, Winchester Animal Control responded to an anonymous call from a person who claimed a co-worker would come to work smelling like cat urine. The caller was concerned for the cats’ safety.
When animal control arrived at the Winchester home in question, they removed nearly 200 cats. Now as the case moves to court, neighbors who live close by, are reacting.
“I think they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Annette Newman, who lived directly next door. “I mean, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. That was horrible conditions down there.”
Victor DuBourg lives two houses away and said he has only had short, but friendly conversations with the Thomens. He was surprised by the entire situation and sympathizes with the children that have been relocated by DCF.
“I feel for the kids,” DuBourg said. “Definitely a tough spot on any parent and any family member that stepped up to help out with those kids.”
The cats involved were initially relocated to a nearby school and most have been adopted into safe homes, according to Cannamela.
“They’ve been getting good homes and they’ve been getting a good chance at life,” she said.
The Thomens and O’Brien were released Wednesday, agreeing to no contact with animals and compliance with DCF. They are scheduled to return to court on Jan. 10.